"You know how in Harry Potter they have pensives?"
"No. I don't like Harry Potter."
Jony and I are sitting on the side of a fountain facing the Hôtel de Ville, surrounded by the lights and Christmas tree that decorate this place. We are sharing an order of marrons grillés, something which we had been planning to do since we first saw the stands pop up around Aix over a month ago. It is his last night and time has run out to put it off any longer.
This is a moment of total peace and happiness, which is how I've been feeling since I got to France. Sitting in decked-for-the-holidays Aix with a great friend and yummy food, I couldn't be more at home.
"Yes you do!" I protest. He smiles. "I know you too well for you to lie about something like that." Harry Potter fandom is high on my list of required qualities in a friend.
"Anyway," I continue my original thought. "I wish we had those. I wish we could capture a moment and relive it any time we want. Like this. Next semester when I'm overwhelmed and missing France, I want to come back to right now."
This blog has been my pensive. I've tried to capture the people, places and moments that have made this experience so amazing. This last blog is a record of my final moments in Aix, little things that I want to remember that show how at home and among family I was abroad. I hope that you have enjoyed your glimpse into my pensive over the last few months.
It is my last night and I'm the closest I've ever been to lost in Aix. Up until this point, the city has been mine to wander and lose myself in, yet always know my place. I've just said my final goodbye to Cassandra, Kacy and Sara (at least until we see each other in the States) and I'm walking home alone. When we parted ways I realized that I was on a street that I knew, but which I had only ever navigated in the company of my friends. Now I am on my own. Three months ago I would have panicked, but now I have confidence that I'll soon see something I recognize. In a few minutes I see "Chat Rêveur," which means that I'm at Hôtel de Ville. I have a 10-minute walk home to get my last glimpses of the city.
I commit to memory the smell outside Jacob's Boulangerie; the liveliness of the area outside of Patacrêpe, our favorite restaurant and where we had our last family dinner a few nights ago; and the excitement I feel as I pass the Rotonde and Tarte Tropezienne, who makes the best bread, and walk down the stairs to get to my apartment, a happy home that my host mom, housemate and I have created. I am close to tears but don't cry. After 3 1/2 months here, I want to look like the local I feel like rather than the tourist I probably am on my last walk through the city.
LaSia and I sit on my floor, rolling clothes, switching them from one bag to another, squishing, squeezing and sitting on bags to get them to zip. I have space bags which you need to sit on to get all the air out so we are lying on my floor contorting ourselves into strange positions trying to let the rest of the air escape. We borrowed our host mom's scale to weigh our bags, but the suitcases are so big that they cover the glass screen that displays the weight. We have developed a system where one of us puts the bag on the scale and the other one crouches down next to the scale so that when the other takes the bag off, they can read the weight quickly before it disappears. The scale is not in my favor. LaSia has to get up early too, but she has spent at least an hour helping me try to get my bags in order.
When we've admitted defeat, she goes back to her room trying to figure out what she can leave here to make her bag weigh 3 kilos less so she doesn't have to pay the overweight fee.
It's 2 a.m. and I finally have no way to put off sleeping. I go in to her room with the intention of saying goodbye since I'll be gone before she wakes up.
"This is it," I say sadly.
"No it is not. We live too close for this to be it." Luckily I live close to most of the friends I've made here and we're already planning a reunion next year. A hug is too final so we wave goodbye for now, say goodnight and see you soon, and enter onto our separate journeys home.
As my plane from Marseille is about to take off, I start laughing thinking back on all that has happened in the last 3 1/2 months. Study abroad has been too incredible to leave sad, but I shed a few emotional tears as I see my beloved Provence disappear below me. A few minutes later, I look out again and see a perfectly white sky. The clouds literally form a blank slate. When I go home, I have to figure out how to incorporate the person I was in France and the person I was at home. I have to figure out how study abroad will figure into my future life.
I think of my friends, my study abroad family with whom I formed super glue-tight bonds faster than I've ever bonded with a group of people before.
I think about all the times I was sure I would miss this plane, train or bus, and would be stranded wherever I was. I never missed a single flight, train or bus ride.
I was left in awe that I could fall so completely in love with a place and people so quickly. I was left in awe of the Grand Place in Brussels. I was left in awe of my own ability to be self-sufficient and build a whole life away from everyone I ever knew.
I think about last night, walking home alone, beginning a new journey by myself. I know that study abroad has left me with the confidence I need to complete tasks that would have previously left me feeling hopeless. If I can navigate Europe, I can surely write a 20-page research paper (although I'll never want to). For now all I'll need the ability to do is undertake the enormous task of unpacking. I take a last glance out the window, say a silent goodbye and thank you to France, and settle in for a long day of traveling.
"On va manger les filles!" is one of my favorite things to hear every day. It signals not only a break from homework (although, let's face it, I was probably lost in the abyss of internet distraction anyway) but an amazing French meal cooked by my amazing host mom.
Most host parents are great, but you hear stories. The same meal every night. Awkward marital problems. My housemate LaSia and I are lucky enough to live with a host mom who is warm, welcoming and gives us the true French experience. Me, Madame Regent and LaSia
Madame Regent has made us feel like a part of her family. Her son, his wife and their children live nearby, so we often come home on Friday or Saturday night and they're there enjoying a family meal, which we are always welcome to join. Her granddaughter lets herself into my room if I'm home and we play Yahtzee (with the rules she made up) or listen and sing along to the American music she knows.
Madame is welcoming, making sure we tried macarons and Calissons d'Aix. Each night we have a real French meal. It is never one big dish, but consists of several small dishes, then salad, bread and cheese. Simple and delicious seems to be her cooking motto.
If LaSia and I want to watch Master Chef so we can root for Marie-Hélène, we watch it until we’re all asleep on the couch.
Her generosity extends to our friends, who she greets with warmth if we ever bring them over because we have to stop at home on the way to somewhere else. Everyone is greeted with the French double-cheek kiss. She even let us have a friend over for dinner and taught us all how to make crêpes.
I come home every night hoping that someone will already be home and glance out my door to greet whoever is coming home when I hear their keys in the door. More than being alone in a foreign country, making new friends or taking classes in French, I was worried about living in a home stay. With Madame Regent and LaSia, I have found out how much fun living with people can be.
This Thursday was the first Thanksgiving that I spent away from home. Although I didn’t spend the holiday with my family, I still spent it with family.
This is the second time that I’ve travelled to a foreign country without my family. The first time was in May 2012 when I went to London with 6 other students and 1 professor. We lived, ate, learned and explored together. We were there for 10 days and are now the closest of friends.
It is my opinion that you become closer to people you travel with faster than anyone else. You have a short period of time in which to go through all the phases of friendship. You meet, get to know, live with, become inseparable from and then have to leave these people all in the span of however long your trip lasts.
In the case of study abroad, you have 3 1/2 months to do all this. When I went to college I thought I could never find friends as good as those that I had in high school. When I came to study abroad I thought I could never get as close to anyone in 3 1/2 months as I had to my college friends. Now, I’m lucky to have 3 amazing groups of friends.
IAU hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for us on Thursday. Obviously nobody expected it to be as good as the meals we would have gotten at home, but we were happy to be together for the holiday. We are completely incapable of getting everyone together at once (Gina was missing from this gathering) but most of us were there wine-ing, dining, laughing and, since we helped serve the pumpkin pie, filling up on all the slices of pie we stole. After the meal nobody wanted to go home, so we went to a bar until Thanksgiving was over and we felt like returning home.
After the meal, we stood in a circle in a place right outside where the dinner was held and gave thanks, mostly for each other and this experience.
I’m thankful for my semester in France, the best thing that could have happened to me at this point in my life. I’m thankful for the family that I’ve created here, who are the reason that going back will be so hard. I’m thankful for my family, friends and all the opportunities that I have waiting for me at home that will make going back a little easier. I’m thankful that studying abroad has been all that I was dreaming it would be since I was 12.
I'm certainly making the most of my last few weeks abroad. My friends and I have gotten pretty inseparable, seeing each other basically every single day. We went to Marseille this weekend, in 2 weeks I have a girls weekend to Monte Carlo planned, and every weekend day in between is booked. Still, talk of the end has arrived. I finally forced myself to look at my plane ticket home. December 19, 3 1/2 weeks away.
Following so many words of happiness- "incroyable," "contente," "magique,"- goodbye will be the hardest one to say. How do you say goodbye to the first place you were ever immediately and unwaveringly happy? The first place you ever built a life completely on your own? And how do you tell your family and friends that it's so hard to leave?
In my writing class last week we had a discussion and somebody expressed this sentiment. You don't want them to think you don't love and miss them, but you can't go home and pretend that a piece of you isn't still in Aix.
My writing teacher pointed out that the fact that we're here at all means someone back home is supporting us, so I guess we just have to trust that they're happy that we had such a life-changing experience and will put up with our period of moping and incessant stories.
And of course, we'll have to talk to our Aix friends, the only ones who completely understand our period of readjustment and what will surely be mixed emotions, often. By talking to them and keeping the changes that we underwent here alive at home, we'll be able to accept that we have to return to reality after what seemed like an incredible dream.
Sara and I rushed to the TGV station after my last class on Thursday and arrived in Paris around midnight. We took a taxi from the Gare de Lyon to my uncle’s apartment, a taxi ride that I love. You pass the Musée d’Orsay, drive on the Champs-Élysées and see the Eiffel Tower looming above the buildings. I found myself smiling and sitting up straighter to get a better look out the window without even realizing it.
On Friday we had a lot to do to get ready for the Catching Fire avant-premiere, the big event for which we travelled to Paris. Sara knew where there was a mall, but we had to take the metro to get there. We stopped and asked for directions to the nearest metro station, and managed to find it without getting lost. It took us quite a while to figure out where we even were, and even longer to buy tickets and figure out how to get where we were going, but we eventually figured out that we had to take line 9 to so-and-so station, then transfer to line 10. AND WE GOT THERE!! Okay, it took about three times as long as it should have since we didn’t know which direction the trains were going and had to double back to where we had just been at one point, but we got there. We even figured out how to get back, and commenced beautifying just in case Josh or Liam was in the mood to fall in love with one of us. My hair was done, my outfit was on, and my new earrings bought just for the occasion were adorning my ears when I went on facebook and saw a picture of people already lining up outside the Grand Rex, the venue for the premiere. We called a taxi, I put on my makeup at warp speed (which always results in my eyes burning when I get eyeliner in them) and we were out the door faster than I would have been if I had woken up at 8:55 for a 9:00 class.
We scouted out the place and found that there was a line to get into the theater and there were people waiting by the red carpet to see the stars. I obviously waited by the red carpet. Sara got in the line to go into the theater, but eventually joined me when she got bored. We did have a 4 1/2 hour wait until the stars even got there.
I spent the 4 1/2 hours maneuvering my way as close to the security barriers as I could. It was obvious that I wasn’t going to get close enough to snap a pic with any of the celebs but I could still snap pics of them. The wait was uneventful except for my conviction that my numb toes would never be the same. Whatever; it would be worth it if I got to see Josh.
The actors and production people started showing up at 8:30 and the crowd was packed so tightly I was getting claustrophobic. The first person to pass was Francis Lawrence, the director. I’m so short and everybody was holding up cameras and things for him to sign so I barely even got to see him! I held my camera up as high as I could and pressed the shutter button. Liam came next and since he’s so tall I could see him. Let me tell you, he is even more attractive in person. At that point I realized that even if Josh passed right in front of me, I wouldn’t see him. He’s 5’ 6”, a perfect size for me but not great for seeing over a crowd. People were standing on the bike racks on the other side of the street to get a better view, so I pushed my way out of the crowd and went to the other side of the street. The view was no better and all the bike racks were taken, so I just went to the line of people waiting to get in to the theater. To get in you had to walk on the red carpet so we had to wait until the stars were no longer there. Eventually they let us through. At the end of the carpet was a curtain, behind which I was excited to see the stars taking their official press pictures. Although the guards urged us to “avancez” I obviously pulled out my camera. I had a perfect view of Liam, Jennifer and Josh! When I got to the other side of the curtain, they had finished taking pictures and I could see Josh just standing there. I zoomed in and had a perfect shot, but as I pressed the button a guy walked in front of me! Luckily I still got some shots of Josh’s head, but mostly I have excellent pictures of that guy. Sigh.
I found a seat (Sara had gone in before the red carpet so she already had a seat) and took in the atmosphere. The energy was so high and on the movie screen they were playing interviews with spectators that they had done before the red carpet began. Eventually the emcee quieted us down and introduced the actors, director and producer one by one. They came down the aisle in the middle of all the fans and went on stage. I was pretty much in tears. Before we entered the theater, they confiscated our electronics so that we couldn’t record and leak the movie. Unfortunately that also meant that when Liam, Josh, Jennifer, Elizabeth Banks, the director, and producer were on stage chatting with the emcee I couldn’t take pictures. When the emcee asked Jennifer a question she answered with her signature genuineness: “Sorry, I don’t understand your accent!” When he asked Josh what he knew how to say in French, he answered, “Je suis fatigue.” Everyone cheered. A second later he added, “Je suis faim.” There was a pause before everyone cheered for his incorrect French (it should have been “J’ai faim”) but since it was Josh everyone cheered anyway. Josh, Liam and Jennifer play-fought on stage. Josh danced off stage. It was adorable. After they left, the movie played.
It’s technically not out yet and I don’t want anyone from the studio knocking on my door, so I’ll just say that it was INCREDIBLE! Fans of the book will not be disappointed or think that they drastically changed anything. The screenplay got every single major point from the book and I don’t think it left any confusion in the minds of those who didn’t read the book. The acting was absolutely amazing and the sets, costumes and filming techniques were gorgeous.
After the movie we got back to the apartment about 12:30 but I was too pumped to go to bed until 2. The next morning Sara and I bought pastries, walked to the Eiffel Tower and decided to climb to the second floor just for fun. We took the TGV back to Aix at night after our star-studded weekend. Being up close with celebs and deciding on a whim to climb the Eiffel Tower definitely agree with me.
There are two kind of international camaraderie. The first is meeting someone in your travels, never expecting to see them again, and then constantly running into them when you don't expect it. We experienced this in Belgium. We were five travelers in a six-bed room so I figured we would have a roommate at some point during our stay. I was in the same situation when I went to London last year, and we got some great stories out of our roommates, so I was excited to meet a fellow traveler.
When I woke up the first night to the loudest snoring ever coming from Patrick's bunk, I was not excited. It briefly crossed my mind that he hadn't been snoring in Barcelona, but I was more concerned with what I could throw at him to get him to stop. A lull in the racket allowed me to get back to sleep without injuring him.
I joined two of my friends in the kitchen in the morning and we commiserated about the loud interruption to our much-needed sleep. They told me that the snoring didn’t come from Patrick, but our new roommate who had arrived after we went to bed. I was prepared to shoot him mean glances from my bed for the rest of the stay until I met Flavio, our adorable and super nice Argentinian roommate.
We learned all about each other (he's 30 and an anesthesiologist), talked about American versus Argentinean political systems, and got into such an interesting conversation one night that we left for dinner far later than we had planned. After three nights, both Flavio and our group left the hostel. We were going to Bruges for one night and would then return to Brussels for the rest of the trip. He was going to a small town between Brussels and Bruges and would then continue to Bruges. Wouldn't it be funny if we ran into him again, we joked?
After we got settled in our hostel in Bruges, I went to the hostel desk to ask where we could pick up the boat to take a tour of the canals. While waiting in the line, I looked in the full-wall mirror and caught a glimpse of the sweater the man in front of me was wearing. "Flavio?" I asked, and the man in front of me turned to greet me 12 hours after we said goodbye. "Oh my God!" I exclaimed and motioned to my friends to show them who I had found. We saw Flavio a few more times that trip around the hostel, and had breakfast with him on the morning we left. We'll never see him again (although, that's what we said when we left Brussels), but Flavio was an important part of our vacation. He was our friend for a few days, a familiar face when we only knew four other people in the whole country, and the guy whose murder I plotted every night when he woke me up with his snoring.
The second kind of international camaraderie is one that I experience at least once a week. It's hearing someone speaking your language in another country and feeling an instant connection to them. Even if you would never talk to each other at home, a common language makes them the closest thing to a piece of home that you have at that moment. This kind of connection usually happens when people are out of even the comfort zone that they’ve created for themselves abroad: for example, when trying to navigate a foreign city. When we arrived in Bruges, we had to get to our hostel. The confirmation email said to take bus 10 and that the driver would tell us where to get off. "The driver said he was going to tell us which stop it was, but I don't know how. Maybe you should sit up front so he can get your attention," I overheard a lady on the bus say to her husband. Hearing a situation that was exactly the same as ours from someone who was clearly American gave us a bond. We chatted, exchanged travel stories and helped each other find our ho(s)tels, which turned out to be on the same street.
I would never talk to someone I didn't know at home unless I was really desperate for directions. Abroad, someone who is confused and hears you speaking English will rush over and ask for directions, sure that if you share a language, you'll help them out. And you always do. You're traveling different journeys, but you can count on the fact that they both have the potential to be hard enough without someone from your own country, or someone you shared a hostel room with, complicating them. That's what taxi drivers, waiters and anybody who is impatient with non-native speakers is for. Meeting someone who is in the same situation as you makes you comrades, playing on the same team in the adventure called being abroad.
"Fifteen. Quince." Unsure if she got the English word right, the lady pulls out a calculator and types in 15 to show my friend.
"Thank you; merci."
Barcelona is such a cool blend of languages. Conversations like this one, in three languages, are not uncommon to us. We're not sure if the person speaks French or English (most people speak at least one) so we try one, and if they look confused, try the other. In France, most everybody speaks English. In Barcelona, 90 minutes from the French border, we're finding that French is at least as useful as English in a country to which neither one is native.
We expected to be completely helpless here in terms of communication. One of our friends speaks Spanish fluently, but if he weren't around we would have to revert to our pre-language grunt-and-point form of communication. Thankfully, that expectation was not met; instead we got a linguistic experience even more interesting than the one we're getting in France.
When I think of Barcelona, I think of colors, vibrancy and life. Certain attractions have displayed the vibrancy that the city is known for, but the streets just look like any other city- not as awful as New York but nowhere near as pretty as Boston or London.
Our first night here, Barcelona was playing Real Madrid, their arch rival, in fútbol. The sense of unity was apparent during the day when almost every man, woman and child wore a Barcelona fútbol (soccer) jersey. For dinner we went to a restaurant where the game was playing so that we could watch and be part of the excitement. We ate tapas and tried a Catalonian dessert. We cheered out loud and clapped with everyone else when they scored and won. Fruit at the Mercat Boqueria: the best part of Barcelona!
Earlier that day our tour guide pointed out a market where she said all the locals go. The Mercat Boqueria was my favorite place in the city. The fresh fruit was divine and the fruit juices, like the Dragonfruit juice I got on our first trip there, were amazing. Tonight we got calzones and fruit juice for dinner and it was the best 4€ I spent in Barcelona. I'm sure the meat, candied nuts and other sweets were delicious, but that's the stuff of another trip.
This morning we took the metro to Park Güell. (At this point everybody should pause and be impressed that we managed the metro in a city we don't know.) After having scheduled tours for the last two days, we were left to our own devices today. Park Güell is a complex which was originally supposed to be an elite residential area but was never finished. The designer was Antoni Gaudí, and his designs look like something out of Dr. Seuss. There are not many right angles; instead the rooftops and balconies are curved to avoid them. The colors are bright and the architecture is exactly the kind you expect to see in Spain.
Looking back on what I've written, it seems like we found a lot of life in a short period of time, but that's because what was there is easier to write about than what was missing. The expectations that we had were not met for any of us. The liveliness of the city was exaggerated and we were disappointed. In the future it would be wise not to make the mistake of having a certain expectation and not being satisfied when it's not met. But for this next trip, there's no way we're going to be disappointed, even if we just eat the whole trip. We'll be up at 4 tomorrow morning to board a flight to Belgium, home of waffles, chocolate and fries.
All of a sudden, the weather changed. On Thursday my summer clothes were comfortable, but on Friday my skirt sent me speed walking home to get out of le mistral, a freezing wind that blows for a few days at a time and then moves on.
It's about midterm time. I'll be doing a lot of writing this week and studying next week, but at the end of all the essays and tests is Fall Break! Our flights and hostels for Barcelona and Belgium are booked so all that stands between us and our vacation-within-a-vacation (I mean school?) are midterms.
Planning ahead to figure out how to get all my studying and writing done in a reasonable amount of time so that I don’t have to pull all-nighters (never gonna happen) has me looking at my calendar for the rest of the semester. After break we have 6 weekends left. I have school field trips during three, a trip to Paris during one (did I mention that I'm going to the Catching Fire premiere?? SO EXCITED!), and my housemate and I are planning a trip for the second-to-last weekend. All of my weekends are booked except for the very last one. It makes me feel like my semester is practically over, even though it’s not even halfway through. That combined with the homesickness that I’m finally experiencing are making the melancholy everyone warned me about set in.
I definitely romanticized studying abroad, but I was never disappointed because it lived up to my inflated expectations. A month in I was surprised that I hadn’t experienced any of the changing moods that the study abroad office at Ithaca warned me about; I was still on top of the world. A week ago, my writing teacher said that this was about the time when students really started to get homesick, and gave us an assignment so that we could write about it. Another assignment where we had to write about a time when we felt uncomfortable, displaced, or homesick. I’m super comfortable, I fit right in and I’ve never wished to be anywhere else-- I wished myself here for so long it would be a waste. Now I know what she was talking about. Everything that was exciting about Aix when I got here is still new and fun, but it would be perfect if I could bring all my friends and family here.
The weather changed and so did my mood. Taking one step back, though, reminds me that I’m in France, where I’ve wanted to be for so long, with great friends, big plans and still so much to look forward to. Here’s to hoping that this mood leaves with le mistral and that I get to eat lots of yummy cold-weather food in the meantime!
First off, I would like to wish Aix and I a happy one month anniversary! On September 7 I landed in Marseille Provence Airport, and it’s been bliss ever since.
How did I celebrate? With a jam-packed Saturday. Before I even left the house I had already had enough excitement for the rest of the day, but I had a full day planned. Sara and I, being the only ones left in Aix, spent the day together. Here are some of the highlights.
I woke up several times between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. (when I decided I was losing the battle for sleep and got out of bed) in a panic, afraid that I had overslept and missed 10:00. At 9:55, I was parked in front of my computer, refreshing the FNAC ticket page every 15 seconds. The tickets I was waiting to buy sold out in 1 minute, but my dedication scored Sara and me 2 tickets to the Paris premiere of Catching Fire in November!! Yes, I’m sure the movie will be great, but we’re really hoping to bank some face time with Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth. We also had some delicious pastries after dinner!
We met at 1:00 for lunch and, after discussing where to go, inevitably ended up at Crêpes à GoGo, everybody’s favorite crêperie. To get there, you go down the stairs that lead to the subway and follow the smell of fresh crêpes. Crêpes à GoGo is a little stand in the wall that you reach before actually getting to the subway. There was, as there always is around 1:00, a line, but we waited to get our crêpes, mine sucrée (sweet) and hers salée (savory). I got crème de marron (cream of chestnuts), almonds and chantilly. I wasn’t sure what chantilly was, but it turns out to be whipped cream so that was fantastic.
We ate our lunch in the place behind the tourism office. When we were done, we entered the tourism office to see a photo exhibit called “C... comme Aix.” The photos in the exhibit were taken of events and buildings around Aix. We liked them so much we even discussed their deeper meaning- outside of class? Somebody give that guy a medal.
At night we went to the final concert of the Festival de la Chanson Française, a week-long annual concert series that brings smaller artists to Aix to perform. The show began with Elo Trio, a last-minute addition that turned out to be really great. The lead singer had an amazing voice, and I could even understand a lot of the lyrics. The main act, Axel Bauer, seemed to have a following, if the odd mosh pit of middle aged adults singing and dancing along to his songs was any indication. We were getting into his music too, despite having never heard it before. We took the shuttle home at 11:00, and parted ways 10 hours after we met.
Overall, it was a great day, but here’s the bad news. I walked around Aix for 7 hours and I didn’t get lost. Confused a few times, but never lost. So maybe not getting lost last weekend wasn’t an indication of my magical capacity. As one of my teachers informed us on Wednesday, it’s impossible to get lost in Aix. I haven’t given up hope though. One day those of us whose letters were lost in the mail will be welcomed home to Hogwarts, as I was welcomed to Aix one month ago.
The September picture on my calendar urges me to try and enjoy the ride- or at least it would be doing so if my name were Thelma. Well, calendar, I’ve taken your advice under consideration and have been doing just that for the last three weeks.
I’ve been here three weekends, and this is the first one that I’ve spent in Aix. Although I don’t want to miss the chance to jet off to Monaco for the weekend, I also want to make sure that I enjoy the ride here in Aix, and this weekend was the first chance that I had to do that. The group at Patrick's birthday party. That's me all the way on the right.
This weekend, all of my friends were in Aix. Sunday was one of their birthdays so on Saturday night we threw him a surprise party at the Wohoo, a bar down the street from school whose drinks, we already knew from experience, are delish. We spent a week planning, assigning the food that everyone would bring and figuring out how to get him there. In the end, we had a feast and a really nice waiter who we were chatting with in Franglais all evening. There wasn’t anything fancy about the party, but it was really nice to make our own fun in Aix. We ate a surprising amount in just a couple of hours and then wandered around side streets where we had never been before. I’ve long suspected that my letter from Hogwarts got lost in the mail, but now I know it’s true. We wandered wherever our feet decided to take us and never got lost. Magic, right? Turns out, all roads lead back to the school. Wherever we went, we always ended up near IAU. The original plan was to go out for dinner, but we had all brought so much food to the party that we were stuffed. By 8:30 p.m. (I’ll never get used to military time) I was back in my room video chatting with one of my friends from college. Although it was an early evening (our host mother was out later than my housemate and me) it was really enjoyable.
Next weekend 4 out of the 7 of us are going to Paris. Since I was just there, Sara’s going there for Fall Break and Dan is studying there next semester, we opted not to go. Sara and I are planning to go back to a bakery we found on Friday that had the most delicious looking chocolate cake in the window, and enjoying the food along the ride. We might go to Cezanne’s Studio or do one of the other things that you have to do if you spend a semester in Aix. We’ll try a new restaurant for dinner and see what the town is like at night. Most of all, we’ll enjoy the ride in Aix without rushing through now to get to something better in the future, because this is the future that we’ve been looking forward to.